Hunting season. Moscow conscripts seeking to avoid military service locked in assembly point, transported to army unit at night
Анна Павлова
Hunting season. Moscow conscripts seeking to avoid military service locked in assembly point, transported to army unit at night
29 May 2024, 7:47

Photo: Erik Romanenko / TASS

Last week in Moscow, security forces rounded up young men trying to obtain deferrals from military service, capturing conscripts with ailments such as septic arthritis, asthma, neuropsychiatric disorders, and issues with their backs, joints and hearts. Around 50 conscripts ended up locked in an assembly point to be sent into the army from there. Their relatives kept vigil outside the facility on Ugreshskaya street, filing complaints to the prosecutor’s office, and later pursued in their own vehicles the buses transporting the conscripts to a military unit. This is the story of the Moscow residents attempting to reclaim their sons from the Ministry of Defence.

“It will be an absolutely normal army procedure when the so-called kuptsy, [or merchants,] arrive—these are the military commissars from all regions of Russia—and choose the goods. The goods are our conscripts. And where your child will go is a very big question. But that’s beside the point. The main issue is that absolutely all rights were violated. Because they were taken away illegally, they didn’t sign anything. They were simply gathered up like suitcases and taken to an unknown destination,” said Moscow resident Oksana Parshina, describing what awaits her son Gennady in the army after he was detained on Friday, May 24, and sent to a military unit in the Moscow region on the night between Saturday and Sunday.

Assembly on Ugreshskaya. Over 50 conscripts detained in Moscow

On Friday, messages began appearing on Telegram channels that conscripts were being illegally detained at an assembly point in Moscow. Their relatives gathered at the facility on Ugreshskaya street and demanded the release of the young men. To reach their sons, they called ambulances and the police, to no avail, reported Astra, a news Telegram channel.

“The police officers on duty there to maintain order came, took our statements, behaved very respectfully and decently, and really tried to help. But it was useless. They weren’t even allowed into the territory to have any kind of conversation,” Oksana Parshina recounted in a video.

According to the woman, families arrived at the assembly point for young men unfit for service, with deferments, or seeking them through the courts. The relatives launched a chat group to share news with each other; Parshina said at least 54 conscripts had been illegally brought to Ugreshskaya. “These are either people with diagnoses who are ‘unfit’, or people who are still supposed to come only after receiving a summons, or some are full-time students,” she noted.

Ugreshskaya street military assembly point. Photo: Yandex Maps

“Our children have been declared wanted as draft evaders. And they were stopped by police officers, taken to the station, and then transported to Ugreshskaya. This is the first serious violation of the rules, because police officers cannot take conscripts to an assembly point. They can indeed detain them if there is such an order. So they stopped them on the subway, in cafes, near universities. Gena was met near the house where he rents an apartment,” she said.

Some of the young men, according to Parshina, were not detained but “lured” to the assembly point: told they needed to undergo a medical examination, then locked up there and had their phones taken away. Oksana managed to pass her son a dumb phone—that’s how the parents found out what was happening there. She explained that Gennady had received a summons in April but was now challenging the “degree of fitness assigned to him” in court. The hearing was scheduled for May 23 but postponed to June 14 “because additional documents were needed,” and the next day he was detained.

Anastasia Borisova, the mother of one of the conscripts, told Mediazona that parents had started arriving at the assembly point on Ugreshskaya street on Friday and “stood there until night,” while she came the next day. “We spent the whole day there, wrote appeals, called the prosecutor’s office—the military one, the regular one. And the story is still going on that we’re being given the runaround. That is, the military prosecutor’s office says, ‘Contact the civilian one,’ the civilian office says, ‘Contact the military one,’ ” the woman recounts.

Astra published a video appeal recorded by the brother of Pavel Krymov, who suffers from bronchial asthma and was seized by police on the subway on May 24.

“My brother was diagnosed with bronchial asthma, which the military commissariat overturned,” Maxim Krymov said. “After that, a complaint was filed with the military commissariat and a lawsuit was also filed. As a result, Ugreshskaya issued a referral for an additional medical examination on May 23. On Friday, May 24, he went to the hospital to find out the schedule of available slots, and on the way back home he was arrested by the subway police, handed over to the police department and taken to Ugreshskaya.”

The man’s relatives also told reporters that many of those gathered in front of the assembly point had similarly grim cases: “Septic arthritis, a person after a stroke, a mentally unwell person—he needs pills, and his mother was not allowed to pass them on. Now we’ve managed to get in touch with some of the guys, they say that more than half of them have already illegally undergone a commission, been declared healthy, shaved and assigned to a unit.”

Relatives of the conscripts. Screenshot: Astra

“Almost everyone has an appeal against the decision pending, we’re waiting for the court’s decision, as well as medical certificates,” said Irina Ugulava, the mother of one of the conscripts, in a video appeal. “Our children are also there without food, without water, without anything, no information is being provided, thereby violating our legal rights as citizens of the Russian Federation. This is an urgent request for help. Appeals have been filed with the police and with the military prosecutor’s office.” Videos with relatives of the young men were published by Astra, Sota and Ostorozhno Novosti. In them, they say their children “are unfit for military service.”

According to Anastasia Borisova, one of the detained conscripts turned out to be a young man whose summons was issued for mid-June, but he was taken earlier. A lawyer from the “Call of Conscience” coalition, who asked to remain anonymous, told Mediazona that this does indeed occur: “I quite allow that people appealed the decision, came to have their complaint considered and undergo a control medical examination, but despite the fact that their draft dates are set for a later time, it was decided to send them to the army right away so that they wouldn’t go anywhere. And this, of course, is abuse of authority. This is precisely preventing them from going to court.”

He said he had also heard about conscript roundups in Krasnodar and one case in Tula. In mid-May, Ostorozhno Novosti reported that about 20 Krasnodar conscripts who came to the military commissariat to confirm their unfitness for service were being forcibly detained at the assembly point.

Tula resident Nikita Khakhel told Mediazona that last week he was detained twice by security forces in order to send him to the army, despite grounds for exemption from service due to illness. On Monday, May 27, Astra wrote that Khakhel had been taken to Moscow, and today the publication reported that the young man had been sent to a military unit.

Mosrentgen. Conscripts transported from assembly point to military unit in Moscow region at night

On Saturday evening, relatives of the conscripts said that the young men were already being dressed in military uniforms, forced to sign documents for army bank cards and prepared for departure to military units. Soon they were indeed started to be taken out of the assembly point. Astra published several videos sent by relatives of the conscripts. They followed the buses in their own cars. In the end, the young men were brought to military unit 61899 in the village of Mosrentgen.

Later, Astra clarified that conscripts who refused to put on military uniforms were released from the assembly point in Moscow. “There were ten people in the ward of those who refused to change clothes, nine of them were released. Unfortunately, we don’t know why one remained,” a relative of one of the young men told journalists.

According to Anastasia Borisova, the mother of one of the conscripts, this is “contradictory information”: “I don’t know what happened to the guys who, let’s say, rebelled, resisted with actions. I did hear that they were released, but then I heard the opposite information that they are still there [at the assembly point on Ugreshskaya].”

According to Borisova, two conscripts were released from the assembly point on Saturday; one of them has a “neuropsychiatric condition.”

“I don’t know what its proper medical name is, but he has a tic, he shakes his head, he stammers. His mother wrote that they are registered with a psychiatric clinic. I can’t even imagine what the operational service employees were thinking when they took such a person,” the woman says. “Then I heard that there was a conscript who was banging his head against the wall, didn’t sleep all night. I think it was him. And of course he has a setback, it was obvious that he couldn’t talk normally. And his mother claims that he communicates absolutely normally, he has some disorders, but not as obvious as after the day he spent there.”

Astra learned that Pavel Krymov, who suffers from bronchial asthma, was also released.

Oksana Parshina, whose son Gennady, like other conscripts, was taken to the unit in Mosrentgen, said that at first she was even glad: Gennady had been there for training camp in the eleventh grade and praised this unit. But it turned out that this was another distribution point, and the conscripts would be sent on to other units from there. For example, Irina Ugulava reported that her son, who has heart and joint problems, is going to be sent to the Rostov region in southern Russia bordering Ukraine.

According to Anastasia Borisova, her son said that the conscripts were threatened with being sent to Dagestan in the North Caucasus. “Dagestan doesn’t seem like the scariest point on the map of Russia to me right now. But [the conscripts became alarmed] probably because there is a belief that in Dagestan or Chechnya they treat Moscow residents very badly,” she says. According to her, despite the fact that the young men were clearly intimidated—“if you don’t cooperate, you will be treated roughly”—physical force was not used.

Now, Borisova says, the parents are going to go together to see Moscow’s military commissar Maksim Loktev. “We are not giving up. We do something every day. But some parents are already drawing up their fifth appeals, and they get a response that it will be considered within 30 days. But we, unfortunately, do not have those 30 days, because they will be sent somewhere,” she says.

At the same time, the lawyer from the “Call of Conscience” coalition notes that after a conscript has left the assembly point for a military unit, he acquires the status of a serviceman. Therefore, his advice is to try to withstand the pressure before being sent to the troops, to insist and not be afraid of threats, because such resistance is completely legitimate.

“The only way to protect your rights is to actively defend them yourself, rather than waiting for courts or prosecutors to uphold your right to appeal,” he says. “Refuse to comply with any orders from the police or military commissariat until your formal complaint and lawsuit have been fully considered. Don’t put on a uniform, refuse to get a military haircut, and don’t accept a military ID or tag. Ultimately, peaceful resistance to this abuse of authority is your sole remaining recourse—difficult as it may be.”

Editors: Maria Klimova, Dmitry Treschanin

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